BWW Interviews: POTTED POTTERÂ's Dan & Jeff Talk New Cast in Manila Run, Memories of the Philippines & More!
Going to any new country we never had a show before is an honor. We're loving America at the moment; it goes the same for the Philippines. – Jeff Turner, co-creator and star of "Potted Potter"
"Potted Potter" premieres in Manila on Tuesday, August 28, and runs until Sunday, September 2.
New York, July 24, 2012 – During a Saturday evening performance of "Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience," a parody by double Laurence Olivier nominees Daniel "Dan" Clarkson and Jefferson "Jeff" Turner, at Little Shubert Theatre on 42nd Street, kids show up with "Harry Potter" collectibles in tow: golden snitches, wizard wands, and Horcrux lockets; some grown-ups even put on Hogwarts apprentices' robes – the "Harry Potter" movie saga may have made its final bow a year ago, but the "Potter" phenomenon continues to live and grow.
"When we started doing "Potted Potter" [potted means abridged in colloquial British English] seven years ago, we were huge 'Potter' fans. It's a loving homage parody. So everything we do is love for the book. We never in any point disrespect the book and its characters because we didn't want to go against the fans that we want. We'd rather do this in a fun way. The fans of "Potter" are so huge. Even tonight, there were people dressed in their robes, with their wizard wands. And these are not just kids, we have a full-grown woman dressed as Dumbledore, which is terrifying. When you see a middle-aged woman dressed as Dumbledore is a scary thing. But you don't mess with these fans," says Dan in an exclusive interview with BroadwayWorld.com.
However, Dan and Jeff's 70-minute (with no intermission) tribute show does not only cater to Potterheads or die-hard "Potter" fans. Based on the mixed crowds the production has been getting since it opened on Off-Broadway early last month, "Potted Potter" also appeals to those who have not read J.K. Rowling's seven "Potter" books or who have not seen their movie counterparts. In fact, Dan and Jeff have written the show with their extreme audiences in mind: In "Potted Potter," which is an engrossing quick guide to the "Potter" books, albeit with outworn slapstick devices every once in a while, Dan plays the "Potter" neophyte, who dons funny wigs and numerous headdresses depicting various "Potter" characters, e.g. Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Professor Dumbledore, Lord Voldermort et al., while Jeff plays the "Potter" go-to guy, who dons Harry Potter's signature black spectacles almost all throughout the presentation.
One by one, Jeff summarizes the seven "Potter" books whose main character he believes is utterly bland. Dan prances around the stage as Jeff's comedy sidekick, who can hardly wait for the books' finale and the duo's improvised Quidditch game, complete with neon ring-shaped goals on both sides of the auditorium, a beach ball that is tossed around, and a human-sized golden snitch, which prompts enthusiastic audience engagement.
"You've got so much happening in book four: the Quidditch World Cup; a tournament where you have to do a scene under water, and a scene in a huge maze; and a fight with a dragon; among others. How in a parody do we condense all these? We spent a whole bunch on the dragon as you saw tonight, and that's how we did it. That's tough," says Dan.
What was originally conceived as a five-minute sketch comedy show meant to entertain Potterheads waiting in line for the release of the sixth book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," (Jeff's least favorite book in the series; Dan feels the exact opposite) at a London bookshop in 2005, has been expanded into a full-length theatrical production that toured the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and now breaking box office records in the United States, which even runs three performances on Saturdays at 2, 5, and 8 p.m., and extends until Sunday, September 2.
Good news is that theatergoers in the Philippines can also join the "Potted Potter" frenzy next month for a limited time. Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Potted Productions, and Concertus Manila bring "Potted Potter" to Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City from Tuesday, August 28 to Sunday, September 2, for 10 performances only, featuring British actors Gary Trainor and Jesse Briton, playing the roles of Jeff and Dan, respectively.
"Gary [who's Irish like Jeff] and Jesse are better than Jeff," Dan roars with laughter.
On a serious note, Dan admits, "We had to audition. We really searched hard to get a cast who can do this, which is the strangest thing in the world if you ever audition for someone to play yourself. You have to sit in a room to see people who are pretending to be you for a day; so it's like having an out-of-body experience all day. But we've found two great British soap comedy actors; we've been working with them before we came out here. They're coming in with a new lease on life for the show."
"We were meant to be in New York two months earlier than we were. But everything was put back; so we were double booked [both productions in New York and Manila are closing on the same day]. Instead of cancelling the Manila tour, which we really wanted to do, we decided to recast it," Jeff explains.
Although both Dan and Jeff have been raring to go to the Philippines, the former is a lot more anxious than the latter.
Dan shares animatedly: I went to the Philippines with my family when I was young. And there are two things I vividly remember about the Philippines: one of them was when we were jumping off a rock into the sea (hot springs in Coron, Palawan), and the water was burning hot, which burned my chest. For the rest of the time, I had to be in t-shirt because I was bright red; the other one was when we were eating at a food market, and my mom had to pull me away because I was fascinated by the chickens that were there. There was this woman who would put out a live chicken and wring its neck, and give you the chicken. I just stood there, transfixed. I said to myself, "This is amazing." I wanted a live chicken. And my mom said, "You can't have a live chicken!"
Jeff is shocked; he laughs hard.
"We're hoping to fly out to watch "Potted Potter" with the new cast in Manila," Jeff interjects. "Some British jokes, come over here, work, some don't; some American jokes that go out to Britain work, and some don't. It'd be interesting to know how things would play out in the Philippines."
Dan points out that "being a parody, we have to comment on what's trending, on what's happening, like we say 'Twilight' at the moment, which is terrible. I hate 'Twilight.' Things have been changing though. Seven years ago, those 'Twilight' references weren't around yet. We were mentioning Justin Bieber just last year because we would get a great reaction, for instance. Now you mention his name, people boo. We had to take his name out. As things trend, we move along with them."
"In the world of 'Harry Potter,' when 'Pottermore' came out, we put that in the show. When 'Harry Potter World' opened in the UK, we put something about that in the show as well. Both didn't get that much reaction. I think not everyone outside the world of 'Harry Potter' knows about them," Jeff adds. "If there's laughter, it's working on one level. And on another level, if the people who love the subject you're talking about are enjoying it – they're laughing – then you have a parody."
For Pottedheads and "Potted Potter's" more than 14,000 Facebook fans in the Philippines, Dan and Jeff have a special message for you:
"Keep living the 'Potter' dream. Wear your robes, and keep that wizardly magic alive," says Dan.
"And to anyone who would like to send me some mangoes, the best mangoes I ever had were from the Philippines," he adds.
"Oh, and don't let the muggles get you down!" Jeff wraps up.
Photo Credit: Oliver Oliveros, Rolando Gatilao ("Potted Potter" marquee at Little Shubert Theatre; (L) Jefferson "Jeff" Turner, (R) Daniel "Dan" Clarkson; Little Shubert Theatre main lobby; young fan Julianna Oppenheimer; "Potted Potter" pop quiz blackboard at the theater lobby)